Starting the new year with a clean slate, new notebooks and a heart full of resolutions is a fantastic feeling. The hope as the sun starts to return and you imagine how your life will change is uplifting and life-affirming.
Yet as time goes by these intentions begin to feel like an unachievable burden and you quietly let them slip away.
Is it something to do with your inability to stick to anything? I don’t think so. Having read my way through dozens of New Years Resolutions on blogs in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen one pattern repeating over and over:
The resolutions have failure written into them.
So many resolutions I have read have subtle indicators that they won’t be achieved or if they are, that achievement will go unnoticed. Can you imagine intentionally making your life difficult? No.
It’s not necessarily the intention of your resolution but how you are thinking about it that’s holding you back. If you’re trying to escape entrenched mindsets the chances are those very mindsets could be seeping into your goals and holding you back. No more!
Do your resolutions have the potential to transform your life but lack the power? Here are five ways in which your resolutions are holding you back and how to fix them.
Click to read more after the jump….
I Don’t Want to be Negative but…
You just know from that framing that whatever comes next is negative, right?
In life you get what you focus on and if you focus on the negatives; guess what you’ll wind up with? Yup, the very thing you were trying to avoid in the first place. Why is that? It comes down to our brains not being able to process negatives. Not sold? Try this:
Don’t think of an orange penguin.
What are you thinking of? I’m laying money on the first thing that entered your head right after reading that was a penguin. Grr, how tricksy!
This is because in order to not think of something we need to know what not to think of; making the first thought we have is the very thing we’re not thinking of no matter how hard we try. Did you follow that?
So how does this affect our resolutions? If your resolution is focussed on the thing you want to avoid then, very much like repeating ‘don’t forget’, you’ll more likely end up in the exact place you’re trying to avoid.
Take the words of your resolution and phrase them in the positive. Swap words like: don’t, stop, lose and avoid for a positive description of your goal.
- Stop smoking and lose weight becomes be healthy; breathe fresh air, eat healthy meals and exercise. (NB – this is far from a complete goal)
In short: if you goal is all about where you are going then that’s what your mind is focused on.
It would be better if there was a bit more…
Do you know the feeling of what you’re doing never being enough? It could be more x, y & z or just plain better. It’s this very language that means you might never be satisfied.
If your resolutions contain comparison words like more, improve, better or -er (faster, stronger, fitter, kinder etc) then it’s time to start questioning yourself further.
How much more specifically? Better than what?
Expand on your thinking, get down to the nitty gritty details and the need for more, better and their chums will fall away. Can what you’re doing be counted? If so add a number because there is nothing like being able to quantify something to pin it down.
- I will learn to bake better can be turned into I will learn, and bake with, one new technique each month.
In short: by nailing the specifics of your goal you can be sure you’ll know when it has been achieved.
Are you looking at a Mountain or a Molehill?
Ever looked at the task ahead of you and shrunk away from its seemingly insurmountable size? Those big dreams which could free us and allow us to soar through the sky can seem terrifying when we’re still on the ground. Feeling paralysed by the size of a goal isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.
Guess what? You know already don’t you? Yes, take the journey in a series of steps and it will soon be not only possible but underway. Step one is always deciding to do it so you have begun!
So you’re one step along the way to your big resolution and the next step is to create a map. What are all of the things that need to take place before you will reach your goal?
Say my goal is to exercise off 50kg (~100lb) this year – a figure like that is pretty daunting but at a rate of 4kg each month or 1kg per week it’s already less scary. So what are the things I could do each month to keep my goal on track?
This is where your short to medium term actions come in and you can make each step as easy to take as you choose. If you want to be on target for the end of the year; knowing how close you are to your map will keep you focused on the bigger picture.
You might find that your resolution is a longer term goal than a year which is great! You’re already on track to being satisfied with your progress if you have a realistic timescale you won’t be beating yourself up that it’s not happening now already.
- Leave the day job and earn a full-time living from my craft becomes a series of steps to establish the right conditions to make that leap from employed life.
In short: break those big, long-term goals into smaller short and medium term goals which will lead you there.
I Want it All and I Want it Now!
Is this the year you’re planning to transform every aspect of your life in one fell swoop? Health, creativity, fitness, home, career, family…? Before you run off to get started ask yourself this: can I change all of this at once?
If your life is a juggling act which you’re trying to gain control of, attempting to juggle several big goals at once could be impossible. In fact, by taking on too many goals you could end up achieving none of them as no single project had the space to thrive.
If you want this year to be truly different then do something different. Stop juggling every last aspect of your life and make some space. Take these big ambitions and give them timescales: transformation on this scale is going to take a bit longer.
It may be that you give yourself five years to create the life you’re imagining or that one aspect of your life is given priority in the coming year with the others having a smaller piece of the pie. Look at which ideas clash with each other and figure out how they can be achieved without impacting the other.
However you choose to arrange things this pile of goals needs to be treated like a mountain and broken down into smaller pieces to make it work.
While you’re planning, take a look at the parts of your life which are adding to the juggle without adding value. Find ways of minimising or removing the commitment so you can spend time on the things which are important.
- Set up a business, spend quality time with my family and take a part-time degree spreads out over five years to allow time for each aspect to flourish while protecting that quality time.
In short: give yourself the time to achieve all of your resolutions by making long-term plans.
The Never Ending Journey…
If you don’t notice when you’ve achieved your resolution you run the risk of feeling like a failure despite actually having got there.
Some things are easier to measure than others – increasing your earnings to £2k+ each month can be kept track of quite simply but bringing calm into your life is less easily quantified.
Whether you’re aiming for something quantifiable or abstract if you take the time to build a full sense check of achieving that goal then you will absolutely know when you get there.
Get a big piece of paper and begin to write all of the things you will see around you when your resolution is in effect – what will your day look like? what will you see in your home? the mirror? Next all of the things you will hear or be saying. Take time to dig into what your ears will be telling you. Finally tap into your feelings. Just what will it feel like to get there? What will your emotions be like? How will you approach an old trigger situation?
You might find some of these easier than others, with the ones which don’t come as easily try walking through a day when you have achieved your resolution and asking yourself questions about each sense.
Once you have this description of all the cues that you will experience when you have got there you can use it to visualise your outcome. Creating a mental picture with narrative and emotions which you repeat to yourself for a few moments will keep you on track and remind you of how great it is going to be when you get there.
- I want to be calm with my children becomes I will know that I am acting with calmness when I hear my voice remaining level and friendly, my heart will beat normally and I can breathe out feelings of frustration. I will see my shoulders remain relaxed and my children responding to my calmness.
In short: Create a full sense scenario to imagine and rehearse so you will know when you have reached your goal.
Your resolutions can transform your life and unleash potential in your life. Take some extra time to write success into them and make this the best year ever.